Andy Huggins Talks TV Stardom and Being a Texas Outlaw

April 30, 2022

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America's Got Talent


Valerie Lopez


Sara Cline

2022 Moontower Just For Laughs Comedy Festival Series

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It’s not often that we get the plea­sure of sit­ting down with a guest whose stand-up expe­ri­ences span sev­er­al decades, but such is the won­der­ful case for our guest this week: Andy Hug­gins. (Four and a half decades, to be exact.) How­ev­er, upon lis­ten­ing to this 72-year-old dar­ling of Hous­ton, you’ll quick­ly real­ize that Huggins’s age is prob­a­bly the least inter­est­ing thing about him. That is, unless you count all the rich stuff­ing packed into those years of rock­ing the mic — from open­ing for the likes of Jeff Fox­wor­thy to appear­ing on America’s Got Talent.

Every­body has to start some­where. For Hug­gins, that some­where was Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia. And though Hug­gins seemed con­tent at first to mere­ly talk about the prospect of try­ing stand-up (for months on end), even­tu­al­ly a friend of his decid­ed that enough was enough; it was time to walk the walk. Thus, he offered Hug­gins a spot, per­form­ing between the acts at a folk-singing show. Sure, at the time, Hug­gins was already writ­ing and send­ing out jokes to var­i­ous out­lets with a bit of suc­cess, but this was the first time that his feet got to kiss the stage, and the jokes were com­ing straight from the source. And though he may not remem­ber the exact bits he deliv­ered that day, Hug­gins rea­sons a few prob­a­bil­i­ties: that the jokes were top­i­cal, polit­i­cal, and awful.”

That’s [one-liners] what I’m good at. That’s how my mind works
Andy Huggins

Soon enough, though, Hug­gins found his sig­na­ture style: quick, punchy one-lin­ers. Hav­ing grown up watch­ing The Ed Sul­li­van Show, the rapid-fire set-up, punch” method was more than famil­iar to him. Plus, it was the same brand of humor he’d always employed to elic­it laughs out of friends. That’s what I’m good at. That’s how my mind works,” he explains. Accord­ing to Hug­gins, the art of the punch­line is all about mak­ing the audi­ence mem­bers ask them­selves, “‘Why didn’t I see that com­ing?’” Indeed, Hug­gins recounts the great­est com­pli­ment he ever received — one from his best friend and fel­low com­ic, Jim­my Pineap­ple: He said [to me], The first time I saw you, you sur­prised me with every punch­line you said.’” 

Anoth­er tal­ent that Hug­gins rev­els in these days is … sur­prise: pay­ing bills. Yup, you heard that right. It sounds fun­ny at first, but Hug­gins can eas­i­ly con­jure the mem­o­ries of his alco­hol-fueled days, jug­gling accounts, hav­ing util­i­ties get cut off, and dodg­ing the land­lord. “[My best friend and I], we make our­selves laugh [because] we take such pride in pay­ing bills on time. I feel like strut­ting around the apart­ment when I get online and pay a bill and it’s done.” In fact, Hug­gins admits that it wasn’t until about age 60 that he final­ly got his life togeth­er. I had no career, no ambi­tion. I didn’t know what I was doing, at all. When I think back on it, just, I’m so grate­ful for the life I have now,” he beams.

I'm so grateful for the life I have now
Andy Huggins

To be fair, Hug­gins rec­og­nized the drink­ing prob­lem pret­ty ear­ly on. I gave myself a very stern lec­ture: You can’t drink, Andy. This is going to be too dif­fi­cult. You can’t afford to drink,’” he recalls. Of course, the straight and nar­row path is just that: nar­row, and the path of temp­ta­tion is wide open and wel­com­ing, espe­cial­ly in the world of com­e­dy, where you’re sur­round­ed by bars and peo­ple that enjoy their drink. I was hav­ing fun doing stand-up and hav­ing fun being out and about, and so, slow­ly, the drink­ing crept back into my life,” he states. It wasn’t until about ten years into his career that he final­ly reached sobri­ety. Before then, he was no stranger to a black­out night — includ­ing, in par­tic­u­lar, a per­for­mance in Oma­ha that remains shroud­ed in mys­tery to this day; all Hug­gins remem­bers about that set is the dread­ful expe­ri­ence of wak­ing up the next day total­ly clue­less and the mirac­u­lous­ness of some­how not get­ting fired. 

It wasn’t until his sobri­ety that Hug­gins real­ized yet anoth­er side effect of the drink­ing: He had stopped writ­ing. I had no ener­gy for it. My head wasn’t clear,” he reflects. And I got bored with my act because I was just doing the same thing over and over again. So, I start­ed talk­ing to the audi­ence … doing crowd work, which I was very good at.” Fun­ni­ly enough, despite his appar­ent knack for off-the-cuff inter­ac­tions, once Hug­gins began putting pen to paper again, he real­ized that he much pre­ferred his writ­ten mate­r­i­al. I have no inter­est in talk­ing to the crowd [now],” he laughs.

Though Hug­gins recounts his past as being plagued by irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty, it was also full of prov­i­dence. Upon his move from Vir­ginia to Los Ange­les, Cal­i­for­nia, Hug­gins was blessed” to be made a reg­u­lar at the Com­e­dy Store — passed by Mitzi after only his sec­ond time onstage. 

This priv­i­lege was espe­cial­ly grat­i­fy­ing for Hug­gins because it meant he could hang out back­stage. And it was the first time I was ever around comics,” he recalls. I was real­ly impressed with meet­ing some of the peo­ple I’d been watch­ing on TV for sev­er­al years, like Jay Leno … David Let­ter­man …” Though Hug­gins grants that there prob­a­bly was a cul­ture shock of sorts from the cross-coun­try move, it felt com­fort­able being around my tribe,” he states. I most­ly remem­ber relief and com­fort, final­ly where I’m sup­posed to be.”

I mostly remember relief and comfort, finally where I’m supposed to be
Andy Huggins on The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, California

Even­tu­al­ly, though, the stage time began to dwin­dle. Even the work at the Com­e­dy Store was becom­ing chop­py and unpre­dictable. Resul­tant­ly, more and more of Huggins’s com­ic friends were mak­ing the move to Hous­ton, Texas, where they were becom­ing reg­u­lars at The Com­e­dy Work­shop. They called me up one day and said, Andy, there’s more stage time for you in Hous­ton.’ And that’s all I need­ed to hear,” he explains. Indeed, the stage time in Hous­ton was plen­ti­ful (and it paid those pesky bills he’d been dodg­ing). It was there that Hug­gins became one of the Texas Out­law Comics” — a name borne out of an out­law-themed show they ran in Hous­ton and lat­er decid­ed to revive. To be hon­est with you, we didn’t do all that many shows … but peo­ple still talk about it, part­ly because Bill [Hicks] and Ron Shock were in it, and they were very pop­u­lar indi­vid­u­al­ly, of course. But I tell you what,” Hug­gins is sure to add, how­ev­er many shows we did, they were fun.”

Final­ly, we would be remiss if we didn’t men­tion the oppor­tu­ni­ty that let Amer­i­ca fall in love with Hug­gins: his appear­ance on America’s Got Tal­ent. Of the expe­ri­ence — played to his biggest audi­ence yet — Hug­gins remem­bers the scene back­stage in par­tic­u­lar, see­ing the numer­ous dif­fer­ent acts all rehears­ing, inter­view­ing, and hang­ing out, not to men­tion the 87 pro­duc­ers,” accord­ing to Huggin’s rec­ol­lec­tion. I think it helped calm my nerves just to be dis­tract­ed by all this that was going on around me,” he notes. Then, some­thing extra­or­di­nary hap­pened (besides Huggins’s great set): judge Howie Man­del rec­og­nized Hug­gins from four decades pri­or, when they were young comics just start­ing out. I think I was the first per­son to intro­duce Howie at the Com­e­dy Store … the first time he had per­formed [there],” Hug­gins states. The serendip­i­tous moment of recog­ni­tion was even cap­tured in the TV edit.

These days, Huggins’s age is an asset, if any­thing. After all, his favorite thing about stand-up is the ele­ment of sur­prise, and sur­prise he does. When I walk on stage, I think they antic­i­pate, you know, not just dad jokes, but grand­dad jokes — you know, cardi­gan sweater jokes. And so, I sur­prise them with the tone, and occa­sion­al­ly the lan­guage, and just the atti­tude,” he mus­es. And we can’t wait to see how he con­tin­ues to shock and amuse us all in the decades yet to come.

(P.S. If you were at that drunk­en show in Oma­ha all those years ago, I think we’d all love to know what Huggins’s set was like — Andy included.)

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Andy Huggins